Warren glanced in the rear view mirror and was certain he was still being followed. The black Chevrolet two cars behind, wasn’t that the same one he saw parked at the intersection near his house? He couldn’t be absolutely certain, but he wanted to be absolutely certain so he took a right turn at the next light and began to circle the block. The Chevy followed through the first turn. However, when he made a second right at the light, it broke off and continued down Sansome Street.
Instead of denying his suspicions and admitting they were a figment of his imagination, Warren thought, “My move was too obvious. Anyone worth his salt as an undercover op can spot the circling trick by turn two. The fact I shook him means nothing. If not him, someone else will pick up my trail at the grocery store or after work. Or at work. Who knows? It could be anyone on the faculty who makes extra cash moonlighting for Workman’s Comp.”
Because Warren knew, he was certain, his Workers Compensation disability claim was the basis for the continuing clandestine surveillance even if his attorney swore they were not watching him.
Nearly two years ago Warren broke his ankle quite badly in a fall off a short ladder in the halls at the high school while taking down decorations after Thanksgiving. Warren was not a teacher, had barely managed to receive his own high school diploma, but he was a reliable worker who put in 17 years of service before the accident.
It was a simple chance event that should never have occurred. Warren leaned away from the vertical and the ladder began to tilt on its side. He dropped the construction paper ringlets and gripped the sides of the ladder firmly in an attempt to straighten. Trouble was, he was too far over, had little chance at recovering his balance. He clearly remembered thinking he needed to land with both feet firmly planted at exactly the same time if he did not want to get injured.
He leaped away from the falling treads and braced himself. He stayed righted in the air and for an instant it looked as if one leg was going to land safely inside and one outside the V created by the two upright sides. That hope vanished when, just at the last second, the sole of his boot caught the metal center brace which caused the foot to bend slightly. With the full weight of his body to drive the impact, his foot rolled at a terribly wrong angle away from where it met the lower leg bones. He distinctly heard the sickening sound of celery crunching.
The ankle was shattered. After the operation, Dr. Zelcrow succinctly summed up what it looked like inside: “Bummer.” The doctor explained why he had to make two incisions, one on each side of Warren’s leg.
“You broke the medial and lateral malleolus off the fibula and tibia, destroyed the layer of cartilage that separates the top of the foot with both bones and snapped a tendon right in half.”
The doctor went on to describe why and how the ligaments tore the tips off the bones rather than ripping away and leaving the bones intact. “Your job requires you to be physically fit and I bet you ride a bike. Therefore, the ligaments were strongly attached. In most cases the ligament tears away. Not in your case,” Zelcrow said with a beatific, even wistful, smile. Obviously, he did not receive such challenges often. He added how pleased he was with the outcome of the operation, even if it meant altering some of the original internal construction of Warren’s right leg. “Once I got in there I could see the calcaneus was intact, no problem, but the ligaments were still attached and that’s what I had to screw back in place.” He made a motion with his hand like he was turning a screw driver. “Plus I had to sew the tendon back together and reroute it below the Groove for Peroneus longus. That was a lot of fun.”
For him, maybe, Warren thought ruefully as he listened to the litany while lying on his back. His leg rested on a raised bend in the bed and a large pillow.
One week in the hospital, two months of confinement at home all done in a leg cast that rose to his knee and would not be removed until June. And the pain was almost unbearable. He was given a choice of medications when his cousin suggested Talwin. The drug was a flesh colored pink pill and it took a while for its effects to take hold, but when it did it did a nice job of taking the edge off.
He got good at using his crutches. But whenever someone complimented him on his agility and speed, Warren’s reply was, “This is not something I want to do well. I intend to walk again.”
When that day finally arrived and the cast was removed, his calf muscles had atrophied. There was a noticeable difference in size between the two legs. He required physical therapy to walk, frequent hot tub immersions and massages to break up the scar tissue. He had a minor operation to remove one of the two screws that held the bones in place, but the other screw would remain.
Nearly a year after the accident, he completed the regime and was not limping too badly when he was finally evaluated by a physician for any permanent loss that might have occurred.
“Ninety-five percent,” the doctor said after Warren finished a series of foot bending and leg standing exercises.
“What’s that mean?” he inquired after pulling on his pants.
“Means you may have five percent loss, but that’s about it. Looks real good to me, might eventually turn out to only be three or four percent loss.”